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Inside Slant: Opportunistic defense fuels Bears in OT win


It had been 659 days–or 22 games–since the Bears defense recorded three or more turnovers in a single game. On December 27, 2015, the Bears recovered two fumbles and grabbed an interception in a 26-21 victory against the Buccaneers.

That trip to Tampa was also the last time Chicago won a road game – until Sunday. In Week 6, the Bears went into Baltimore and knocked off the Ravens in overtime, 27-24, thanks in large part to a terrific performance by the defense. Just as they did 659 days ago, the Bears forced three turnovers, playing a big part in a hard-fought road win.

"It was a great job by us getting the turnovers and making big plays for the offense," said outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. "That's called a great team win."

Chicago's defense came out of the gate sharp. The unit forced punts on their first three drives, including a pair of three-and-outs. In the second quarter, the Ravens finally got their offense moving a bit. A pair of long runs put the ball in Bears territory, the first time on the afternoon Baltimore crossed the 50-yard line. But the Bears quickly put a stop to that. On 3rd-and-6 from the Chicago 26, quarterback Joe Flacco completed a short throw to Maxx Williams that looked like it would move the chains. As he approached the first down marker, Bears linebackers Christian Jones and Danny Trevathan wrapped him up and punched the ball loose. Trevathan fell on the loose ball to end the Baltimore drive.

The Bears' offense was unable to capitalize on that turnover, but they'd soon have another opportunity. On Baltimore's very next drive, Flacco looked to stretch the field on a deep throw to wide receiver Breshad Perriman. The receiver fell backwards trying to catch it, and as he was trying to reel it in, safety Eddie Jackson dove to prevent the completion. Jackson's presence caused the ball to fly away from Perriman and into the waiting arms of Bryce Callahan, who made a diving catch to grab possession before the ball hit the ground. Callahan then got up and returned it 52 yards, giving the Bears strong field position. It was the first interception by the Chicago defense this season.

Two plays later, Mitchell Trubisky tossed it to Tarik Cohen, who threw a 21-yard touchdown to Zach Miller.

"It's been an emphasis for us," Trevathan said about forcing turnovers. "We've been playing good defense, but turnovers take a lot of momentum out of offenses, and that's what we want to do. Our defense has been working its tail off. We've been just trying to fly around, get to the ball and bring it to our offense."

Safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Kyle Fuller combined for the third and most important turnover forced by the Chicago defense. Both players are Baltimore natives, playing in their hometown for the first time since high school. With plenty of family and friends in the stands to watch them play, they teamed up for a highlight that will be replayed over and over again.

Flacco looked to hit Chris Moore deep in the Chicago red zone, with Fuller in coverage. The cornerback got his hands on the ball, deflecting it into the air. From his safety position in the middle of the field, Amos came over and picked it off at the Bears 10-yard line. He then weaved his way down the field, thinking to himself 'Go score, make people miss. Amos ran past eight of the 11 Ravens on his way to the end zone, his first career touchdown.

"I made a play on the ball," Amos said. "I tipped it up and just caught it, then tried not to get tackled. I'm just happy I made a play to help the team win. For it to come here at home in Baltimore, it was a great feeling. My granny was up in the stands with the rest of my family, so it was a great moment."

"It was the type of play that we need," Fuller added. "The guys were working together, and we were able to capitalize. It was definitely big. I knew it was a big play. When I saw him running down the field, I thought, 'This is getting even better.'"

It wasn't just turnovers that made the performance a special one for the Chicago defense. They also did a fantastic job keeping Baltimore off the scoreboard. The Ravens offense failed to score a touchdown and only ran four plays all afternoon inside the Bears' 10-yard line. Chicago recorded three sacks, while the Ravens averaged just 3.8 yards per pass play and converted only 3 of 18 third downs. "They are a good defense," Flacco said of the Bears.

It was the type of defense the Bears needed to earn their second win of the 2017 season, and the type of performance Chicago hadn't had in a long while.

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